There is something depressing about bookstores: Thousands of different books, multiple copies of each, held captive in the stagnant din of a commerical space for $18-$25 a piece. It’s not that I don’t want to read the books, I do. I just don’t want to own them. Can you really own a book? You can own a copy, but at the end of the day you must pay for it’s space in your home. You must provide shelf space for it to live. And in reality, most books I read once, and never again.
The library is an inspiring place. Perhaps because it’s model of providing the book is very much like the model of how I will use it’s information: I do not own the information learned from reading a book, I borrow the information. The work itself belongs to the author. And though I may reference and build from the ideas presented in a book, but I will never own the idea.
The intellectual’s bookshelf also bothers me: It serves almost as a degree in of itself; A declaration of worthiness for the individual. A vain attempt to align oneself with the creative practices of other men through material association. “look at all these books I have read”, they say. But it serves no other practical purpose. For the working intellectual, referencing could be done as easy via a list of books in a public library as in a private library. And that is the whole point; I detest private libraries, I suppose, because I detest the idea of private information. The majority of the books I read are the product of a large collection of research by an author. Compiling it doesn’t mean the author owns the information provided. It simply means he owns the position he arrived at; The product of assembly and personal skew, as one may own the rights to a sound recording, while not actually owning the rights to the music.
I think we must ask ourselves; to what is the purpose of information? I would say it is to inform. But if a book has been read by a person, what benefit does it serve collecting dust in a private library?
Public Libraries excite me, as they are a source of information available to any man, women, or child at the price of simply providing a picture ID. They are an efficient use of resources; one book, many people. A book from a public library is a story in itself: The worn binding, pages of interest dog-eared and highlighted. It’s comforting to open a used book, the binding broken in already. Opening a new book can seem violent, the spine cracking and resisting.
Of course, this perspective doesn’t bode well for authors looking to make money from their writing. But I really don’t care. Does capitalism always have to be the motivating factor behind research? writing? art?